Mexican National Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring with Former Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office Employee to Commit Federal Theft and Identity Fraud
ALBUQUERQUE – Armando Gutierrez-Torres, 51, a Mexican national, was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., for his conviction on conspiracy charges arising out of a scheme to steal money from the United States by using the identities of others to generate and cash fraudulent federal income tax refund checks. Gutierrez-Torres was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison; he will be deported after completing his prison sentence.
Gutierrez-Torres’ codefendant Maria L. Ceniceros, 44, of Anthony, N.M., previously was sentenced on June 10, 2016, to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for her conviction on theft of government property and aggravated identity theft charges arising from the scheme.
Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres were charged in June 2015, with conspiracy to commit theft of government property and aggravated identity theft in a criminal complaint. According to the criminal complaint, Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres conspired with each other and others to perpetuate the scheme, and that Ceniceros abused her position as a Document Technician at the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office to facilitate the scheme.
Law enforcement authorities learned of the scheme in mid-May 2015, when Ceniceros approached a co-worker in the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office and attempted to solicit his participation in the scheme. The co-worker reported the solicitation to law enforcement authorities and agreed to assist officers in conducting an undercover investigation into Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres. During the investigation, Ceniceros provided three fraudulent federal income tax refund checks to the co-worker so that he could cash the checks with the understanding that the proceeds would be divided between Ceniceros, Gutierrez-Torres and the co-worker. Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres were arrested on related-state charges on May 29, 2015.
Gutierrez-Torres was sentenced based on his guilty plea to a felony information charging him with conspiracy to commit theft of public money and conspiracy to commit aggravated identity theft. In entering the guilty plea, Gutierrez-Torres admitted that in Nov. 2014, he asked Ceniceros to provide identifiers for use in filing fraudulent federal income tax returns and obtain fraudulent refund checks. Gutierrez-Torres also asked Ceniceros to mail fraudulent federal income tax returns to the IRS and cash refund checks in the total amount of $11,963.73.
Ceniceros pled guilty in April 2016, to a similar felony information and admitted accessing the Voter Registration database at work and to record the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of 111 people whose identities she knew would be used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns in order to obtain fraudulent refund checks. She also admitted mailing fraudulent federal income tax returns and cashing refund checks for Gutierrez-Torres.
This case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark A. Saltman of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.